shadow leafI’ve been in a funk lately.  I won’t lie and say I’ve been so busy living this great life I’ve created, that I’ve not had time to tweet or post tips and inspiration for Self-Care September the past few days (as was my intention at the beginning of the month). While I have been busy, and I have created a great life for myself, the real truth is that I have also been a little down. The harder I try to fight the blues away, the more effort it requires.  I wear myself out trying to keep my shadow from joining me in the ring. I tell myself things like “I’m a mom. I have to power through this so that it doesn’t swallow me up and slow me from getting dinner on the table.”  Or “I’m a good coach. I have the power of my own perspective.”

The past couple of days have been like that where I am just feeling uninspired, getting down in the “details” of my life, and super focused on my failings. Failings as a wife, as a mother, as a business owner, as a friend. It has been an unusual effort to get out of bed, and was an even bigger effort not to go straight back to bed once my oldest was off and settled at school this morning. And since I’ve not been practicing very good self-care, I’ve been more or less hiding from social media sharing.

It’s so easy to share when life feels fantastic. It’s easy to snap a picture of something I’m proud of, like our adorable kids having fun, or when we are outside being active and I’m feeling great. It’s not so easy to share when I’m surrounded by my shadow, and I’m feeling emo. I suspect that many people experience this too. But this is my real life. I am sharing it with you now so that if you find yourself fighting with your own shadow, you know that you’re not alone. We all have a light side and a shadow side.  And they both have a purpose.

It takes a lot of added effort to try and be positive when we are actually feeling something else. Usually on a morning like today, I might give myself a pep talk and go out of my way to strike up a conversation with someone at one of the kids’ schools. Today, I gave myself permission to smile politely and keep walking, conserving my energy for me and those who need me. I gave myself permission to feel what I’m feeling. I did some journaling, ate a healthy lunch, and am now cuddling next to my 3-year-old who wanted to watch a movie instead of taking a nap in his room. Rather than pushing the issue, I decided it would be nice to keep him close.

As I write this, I’m flooded with gratitude.  I’m grateful for:

  • my health and that of my family
  • amazing kids who test me and teach me and stretch me each day
  • a partner who protects my self-care ferociously and voices when he thinks I’m spreading myself too thin
  • wonderful work with inspiring women
  • a changing season and reprieve from the Texas heat
  • nature trails and cool green grass
  • finding my creative outlet through art
  • a caring coach who believes in me and helps me see what I’m too close to see myself
  • dear friends who I can be completely vulnerable with and pull myself out of a shame spiral
  • courage to keep moving forward through my fears to live authentically

In practicing gratitude for all that I am and all that I offer to others, I am reminded that gratitude itself is a practice of self-care.  I can actually feel a fog beginning to lift as I write this. I am grateful for my shadow for without it, I wouldn’t question or grow. I am grateful for the pause I am giving myself to soak it all in. I have a tendency to go full throttle with inspiration and immediately get right to the doing. Instead, I am taking the time to pause and reflect. Practicing gratitude for the pause I am giving to myself. Practicing gratitude for the learning and the expansion. Practicing gratitude for the compassion I have for myself and the forgiveness for not always being perfect with my own self-care.  Practicing gratitude that I’m getting more skilled at recognizing when my shadow has shown up, learning from what it has to offer me, and stepping back into my light.  Practicing gratitude for the inspiration that floods my heart and soul. Practicing gratitude for being.

There’s a really important distinction between faking a good mood, and allowing ourselves to feel what we’re feeling so we can then choose to focus on what naturally fills us with positive fulfilling energy. It’s when we try to force a positive attitude without acknowledging what’s real that the exhausting effort catches up with us and we go down for the count.

In addition to sharing with others, I’m hoping by memorializing this lesson, that next time rather than desperately fighting back my shadow, I’ll be quicker to pause and perhaps even offer it a beer.

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